Lead Poisoning Prevention
Lead in Schools

Why is lead in schools a concern?

Lead was used in paint to make the colors brighter and to make the paint last longer. Many older schools used lead paint to cover walls, doors and especially windows.

Intact lead paint generally does not pose a health risk. However, when lead paint is allowed to deteriorate or is damaged, it can chip and peel, releasing lead into the environment. Lead paint chips and lead dust pose an increased health risk to children for learning disabilities, central nervous system damage, kidney damage and other detrimental health effects.

What was done to address lead in schools?

In order to protect children from the health risks posed by lead paint, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was mandated by congress in 1998 to develop regulations to manage the abatement of lead paint in buildings that children inhabit, including schools.

In 2001, the Minnesota Department of Health's (MDH) Lead Poisoning Prevention Act and Rules were approved by EPA to regulate the abatement of lead paint in pre-1978 buildings that children inhabit in Minnesota, including schools.

In 2010, the EPA introduced the Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP) to regulate all renovation activities that may disturb lead paint in pre-1978 buildings that children inhabit, including schools. Minnesota does not have any regulations that have been approved by EPA to regulate renovation activities at this time.

What is regulated by MDH and EPA?

MDH regulates the abatement of lead paint from all pre-1978 schools where there are children under the age of six.

EPA regulates all renovation activities where lead paint will be disturbed from all pre-1978 schools where there are children under the age of six.

How do schools in Minnesota comply with the MDH and EPA regulations?

To comply with MDH regulations, schools:

  • may hire an MDH licensed lead risk assessor or lead paint inspector to perform a lead paint inspection in order to identify where lead paint is in the building, or
  • may assume all paint in the building has lead in it; and
  • must hire MDH certified lead firms to abate any lead hazards identified by the risk assessment or abate any assumed lead paint.

To comply with EPA, schools:

  • must hire EPA certified lead renovation firms to conduct any renovation activities that may disturb lead paint.

Are there other items that could contain lead in schools?

Besides paint, lead was also used in stains, varnishes and shellacs. These products were used in many older schools in similar fashion to lead paint, to cover doors, windows, and other wood trim.

Lead in water can also be a concern, since many older schools have lead water pipes in them or used lead solder on copper water pipes. Another concern with lead in water is older fixtures such as faucets and drinking fountain spigots. The brass in these older fixtures can contain high amounts of lead. These pipes and fixtures are a concern because children will get drinks from these spigots or use the faucets to fill water bottles and can ingest lead.

More recently, lead was used on many imported toys, such as building blocks, toy cars, cartoon figurines, and sidewalk chalk. Some of these toys may be found in schools. If you are concerned about toys that may have lead in them, remove them from any play areas, and contact a licensed consultant from MDH’s Find a Contractor or Consultant web page. They will be able to test the toys for lead content. If these items have lead in them, the consultant can recommend how to dispose of them properly.

Updated Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 09:14AM